No. 3 Gonzaga clinched the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season boys' basketball title and the top seed in the playoffs for the first time in four years with its 69-64 victory over Good Counsel on Friday.
When the Eagles won the title in 1999, they did so with a fairly big team with 6-foot-8 Pat Mitchell anchoring the post. Gonzaga achieved the feat this season by running the same offense as in 1999 but without a player taller than 6-6.
"It's funny that we've gone to the same offense this year even though we don't have a big person," Coach Dick Meyers said. "The players seem to like the offense because it allows for a lot of flexibility."
Adaptability is most evident as the Eagles boast three starters who average double figures in points per game -- senior guard Lorenzo Miles (11.6), junior guard Stanley Hodge (11.5) and senior forward-center Luke Owings (10.4). Antwan Harrison, who averages 9.4 points per game, finished with a game-high 18 points in Gonzaga's win on Friday.
"We're completely balanced, and everybody is so unselfish that it works for us," Owings said. "On any given night, anyone could have 20 points."
For much of the season, Gonzaga trailed O'Connell in the standings. The Eagles pulled even Jan. 21 when they defeated the Knights, 69-61. They also got help from Paul VI Catholic, which defeated O'Connell.
Gonzaga is focused on the playoffs, which will start Wednesday. The biggest advantage in earning the top seed is the Eagles will play their first-round game at home, mostly likely against Bishop Ireton. If Gonzaga wins, it receives an automatic bid to the semifinals.
"It's more like relief," Owings said of winning the regular season title. "We wanted it because it helps so much to get that extra day off. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day in our league. It makes the league that much better."
-- Judith Evans